As people age, chronic inflammation causes serotonin production and release to decrease, resulting in mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, irritability, and reduced motivation. The amino acid tryptophan affects serotonin levels. The proper use of tryptophan can help improve mood, sleep quality, and exercise motivation while also reversing the behavioral symptoms associated with aging.
As people age, they are more likely to experience mood disorders such as irritability, stress, and anxiety. A depletion of the brain levels of serotonin, which has been referred to as the “happiness hormone,” has been found to be the cause of a variety of symptoms, including sleep disorders, depression, aggressive behavior, reduced motivation, and suicidal thinking.
As people age, they are more likely to develop chronic, low-level inflammation, which can lead to degenerative diseases in many parts of the body. The inflammation caused by autoimmune conditions often affects more than just the physical body; it can also lead to issues with mental health by interfering with the production and release of serotonin in the brain.
Your body needs the natural amino acid tryptophan in order to produce serotonin. The role of serotonin in psychiatric and behavioral disturbances is largely understood through tryptophan depletion studies. A lack of serotonin caused by lower tryptophan levels can lead to a bad mood, memory problems, and aggressive behavior.
You can’t supplement serotonin itself, but tryptophan is safe and effective. Adding tryptophan to your diet can help improve serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels. This means that it can help to improve mood, reduce anxiety and stress, and make people more resistant to age-related behavioral issues.
Good Health Benefits of Tryptophan Supplements
Tryptophan Helps Regulate Behavior
According to scientific literature, tryptophan supplementation makes people nicer. This is because tryptophan is converted into serotonin in the brain.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to create serotonin, and studies in animals have shown that supplements of this increase territoriality and aggressive behaviors. Humans experience similar results.
For example, studies of adults who self-describe as “quarrelsome” found that taking 1,000mg of tryptophan three times a day caused significant increases in agreeableness and agreeable behaviors and decreases in quarrelsomeness. The study found that men experienced a reduction in dominance, while both men and women showed a decrease in quarrelsome behavior and an increase in agreeable behavior. Additionally, participants reported a greater perception of agreeableness with others.
A study found that a single 500-milligram dose of tryptophan can help 10-year-old boys who are physically aggressive. The boys in the group who were given supplements were able to control their reactions better based on how provocative the situation was, which helped them stay out of situations that could turn violent. The boys who were supplemented were able to act more maturely and be more helpful in the group, something that many older adults are also capable of.
Some other studies have found that having low levels of tryptophan can affect behavior in a negative way. Interferon therapy against hepatitis C infection decreases plasma tryptophan levels. People undergoing this therapy are likely to experience emotional irritability and severe depression as side effects. As an example, mice without the gene necessary to convert tryptophan to serotonin display extreme impulsive and compulsive behaviors, including intense aggressiveness.
According to studies, people with naturally impulsive or aggressive personalities may receive the most benefit from supplementing with tryptophan. People with low tryptophan levels are more likely to see anger in other people’s faces and feel angry themselves. Other people who experience tryptophan depletion include those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Tryptophan depletion is also linked to aggression and impulsivity. Tryptophan supplements may help relieve symptoms for patients and their families.
Tryptophan Improves Sleep Quality
Lack of sleep is a major cause of grumpiness in elderly people. People who sleep poorly are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits, according to studies. They are more likely to consume fats or refined sugars, eat fewer vegetable portions, and have more irregular meal patterns.
Essentially, tryptophan is converted into serotonin, which is, in turn, converted into melatonin. Tryptophan is a valuable supplement for people who have difficulty sleeping or who have poor sleep quality.
Studies going back to the late 1970s have demonstrated that taking between 1 and 15 grams of tryptophan at bedtime can help you fall asleep. Doses of 250 milligrams or less were found to increase the quality of sleep by lengthening the amount of time spent in the deepest stage of sleep.
What many additional studies during the 1980s demonstrated were the benefits of taking 1,000 mg or more of tryptophan at bedtime. There was a decrease in the time it took to fall asleep, less time spent awake, and an increase in total sleep time, according to people’s reports. These studies found that people who either had mild insomnia or took above-average time to fall asleep responded well to the treatment.
If you take tryptophan at bedtime, you will probably wake up feeling more alert, thinking more clearly, and doing better on tasks that require attention. Tryptophan induces sleepiness but does not have the same negative side effects as sleeping pill drugs. It also does not make it harder to be roused from sleep when necessary.
The study found that people who ate a cereal enriched with tryptophan fell asleep faster and slept more soundly than those who didn’t eat the cereal. A ten-ounce serving of this cereal would provide 600 mg of tryptophan.
Tryptophan could also help with one of the most dangerous sleeping complications, obstructive sleep apnea. This condition causes people to wake up almost every sleep cycle, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. This also increases the person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
The study found that patients who took tryptophan before bedtime saw significant improvements in their sleep patterns, including the amount of time spent in REM sleep and the time it took to enter REM sleep. A decrease in rapid eye movement sleep is associated with poorer alertness the next day and feelings of fatigue, which can sometimes result in falling asleep during the day (narcolepsy).
L-tryptophan and memory
The amino acid tryptophan has an impact on cognitive performance, though the role it plays is complex. Tryptophan is primarily the chemical precursor of serotonin (5-HT). The body creates serotonin from tryptophan using a multi-step process that employs enzymes called ‘tryptophan hydroxylase’ and ‘aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase’.
The effects of serotonin on cognition have been studied extensively and are now largely understood through ongoing research. When serotonin levels are low, cognitive performance is impaired, especially memory. Researchers have suggested targeting serotonin receptors to improve cognitive skills in depression and Alzheimer’s.
The exact relationship between serotonin, tryptophan, and cognition has not yet been figured out. Research has demonstrated that the cognitive effects of tryptophan can differ depending on the person.
A 2003 study found that memory is affected by a tryptophan deficiency, but alertness is slightly improved. The study authors found that tryptophan deficiency impaired the problem-solving ability of people who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a family history of depression. Tryptophan deficiency also improved the problem-solving ability of people with a normal family history.
The researchers found that tryptophan had a positive effect on the way people process emotional experiences. Tryptophan specifically improved mood and had a positive effect on attitude. The results of the study only applied to the female subjects, not the male subjects.
Tryptophan’s effects on human cognitive performance are complex and not fully understood, requiring further study. While it hasn’t been confirmed conclusively, tryptophan preparations likely have a positive effect on human memory functions.
Tryptophan sports and performance
Tryptophan can also help improve your athletic performance. Despite the fact that scientists have done a lot of research on this topic over the past few decades, very few people are aware of the benefits.
In 1988, a study on the effects of tryptophan on athletic performance was published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. Twelve healthy volunteers took part in a study in which they had to walk on a treadmill until they were exhausted. The volunteers were all in good health and had no trouble completing the task. Various factors have been measured.
The group that received tryptophan lasted 49.4% longer before becoming completely exhausted than the group that didn’t receive tryptophan. In addition, participants taking tryptophan were more resilient. Although tryptophan didn’t have an effect on any of the measured physiological values, more research is needed to determine if it has other benefits.
Tryptophan side effects
Many people take the dietary supplement tryptophan to improve mood, memory, and sleep. Tryptophan is a natural mood enhancer.
We can infer from this that side effects from taking tryptophan are not common. If you take more than the recommended amount of this medication (6000mg per day), you may experience some side effects. In order to avoid this from happening, you should always follow the recommended dosage.
If someone takes too much of this medication, they may experience nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and excessive sweating.
Tryptophan in food
Since its launch in 2003, Nutrition Data has become one of the leading nutritional value websites. The website wants to give the general public honest and thorough nutritional information. The website publishes information that comes from both the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database and the manufacturer’s information sheet for the products tested. This allows for a more complete and accurate portrayal of what the product actually contains.
The main food sources of tryptophan are found in the nutrient database. The nutrition experts listed the following foods as main suppliers of tryptophan (in milligrams of tryptophan per serving with 200 calories):
- Venison meat (746 mg)
- Raw spirulina algae (739 mg)
- Soy protein isolate (695 mg)
- Chicken egg white powder (673 mg)
- Low-fat sesame flour (659 mg)
- Dried spirulina algae (641 mg)
- Raw crab meat (607 mg)
- Soy sauce (603 mg)
- Chopped spinach (594 mg)
- Boiled halibut with skin (593 mg)
Other amino acids in these food sources could compete with tryptophan for uptake. Studies have shown that high-carb, low-protein meals improve tryptophan intake the most.
If you want to raise your tryptophan levels, taking a high-quality supplement is the best approach.
The amount of tryptophan needed can differ greatly. The amount of L-tryptophan you need varies depending on a number of factors, such as your age, weight, physique, how much exercise you get, what you eat, how much stress you’re under, and your overall health.
According to the health department of the University of Michigan, the following dosages are general guidelines for the dosage of L-tryptophan:
- For sleep disorders and insomnia: 1000 to 2000 mg (at a low dose just before bedtime and at higher doses distributed throughout the day)
- For chronic pain or migraines: 2000 to 4000 mg spread over the day
- For the treatment of PMS or PMDD: 2000 to 4000 mg spread over the day
- To relieve depression or anxiety: 2000 to 6000 mg a day
- To reduce appetite and cravings: 500 to 2000 mg throughout the day
You should not take more than 1000mg of the medication per day. If you do, you should spread the dosage evenly throughout the day. It is better to take small doses of the medication throughout the day rather than one large dose. Take 5-HTP in the morning and melatonin at night for the best results. Serotonin is produced by the body during the day, and melatonin is produced in the evening.
The recommended dose of tryptophan to improve mood and cognition is 6000 mg or 6 grams. In general, tryptophan is safe and beneficial as a dietary supplement.
The studies conducted reveal tryptophan levels in the blood have an intimate relationship with serotonin levels in the brain. A lack of tryptophan can cause symptoms that are similar to irritability, mood disorders, anxiety, and stress. Taking tryptophan supplements can reverse many of these symptoms.
If you are looking for a way to increase your synaptic serotonin levels, tryptophan supplementation may be a less expensive and safer option than taking a pharmaceutical drug.